Playboy wants to be your MySpace friend

By Mary Beth Lehman U-WIRE

MUNCIE, Ind. – “MySpace or yours?” Although it may seem like a cheesy pickup line, it is actually the tagline Playboy is using for its newest campaign: The search for the girls of MySpace.

The company is hoping to tap into the viable college-aged community presented within the popular Web community. And with membership on MySpace always growing, Playboy executives hope the campaign will be a good way to build familiarity with the Playboy brand, as well as cast new women into Playboy’s publications.

Michael Sprouse is the senior vice president of marketing for Playboy Entertainment Group. He said reaching the college community is definitely one of Playboy’s goals for entering the MySpace community.

“Absolutely one of the big goals for us in this is to reach out to the college-aged kids,” Sprouse said. “We know that MySpace is a popular thing for a lot of college kids, and we definitely hope that college kids embrace our brand and embrace the fun things we’re doing.”

Although the campaign is bringing added attention to MySpace, Playboy is making it clear that the project is not in conjunction with MySpace.

Representatives from MySpace did not wish to comment publicly on Playboy’s project, but released the following statement: “Playboy is acting independently on this promotion. MySpace has absolutely no connection to it.”

However, there is a connection to MySpace, as Playboy has said part of its viral marketing strategy with the promotion has been to purchase ads on the Web site for Playboy and Playboy’s group within MySpace: Playboy Talent Scout.

The group, which has reached membership above 4,000, serves as Playboy’s hub of activity on MySpace. It is where women can apply and submit photos to audition for “The Girls of MySpace.” It is also where other visitors to the group’s page can browse through submissions from applicants, and register for Playboy giveaways.

Sprouse said promoting the brand of Playboy is one of the top priorities of the group on MySpace.

“We’re trying to bring the fun, hip, cool aspects of our brand to the membership base within MySpace and the Internet,” Sprouse said. “If we can do that in the form of casting and shooting pictorials then that’s great. We have a lot of positive and powerful aspects of our brand that we hope to reach a lot of Internet and MySpace users with.”

However, some feel the search for the girls of MySpace brings some negative attention to MySpace.

MySpace member and Ball State University senior Becky Metz said, “I think that it could potentially be a little exploitative; it’s extremely easy to lie about age online. I would hope that Playboy would make sure that any subjects featured in its [publications] were truly of consenting age, but I would have reservations.”

Junior Angie Lawrence said she agrees that Playboy’s attention could potentially have a negative effect on MySpace membership.

“I have a feeling it’s going to make it more popular, but I’m not sure if that’s the kind of attention that this site should be excited over,” Lawrence said.

Playboy lists a photocopy of a valid ID as one of the requirements for submission, and said underage submissions will not be a problem.

Metz, however is still not sold on the idea.

“I see MySpace more as something like the Facebook; it’s more of a way of networking and staying in touch with friends than a venue for exhibitionism,” Metz said.